Andre Villas-Boas maintained his perfect record in Russia as Zenit St Petersburg beat Rubin Kazan 6-2, their third successive win under the former Tottenham coach.
A hat-trick by Venezuelan forward Salomon Rondon and two penalty kicks by Brazilian marksman Hulk moved Zenit on to 50 points to take the lead.
The Saint Petersburg side are two points clear of Lokomotiv Moscow, who take on minnows Volga Nizhny Novgorod on Monday.
Zenit were 2-0 up at the break with Hulk scoring twice from the spot in the 19th and 35th minutes after the guests fouled Portuguese midfielder Miguel Danny and winger Igor Smolnikov respectively in their area.
After the break Rubin reduced the arrears through Iranian striker Sardar Azmoun but Rondon, who came on as a 66th minute substitute, restored Zenit’s two-goal lead just two minutes after his appearance.
Danny added his goal in the 75th minute, while Rondon netted his second three minutes later before Rubin midfielder Roman Eryomenko scored the guests’ second from the spot with eight minutes to go.
Rondon, who came to Zenit in the winter break in a transfer from Rubin, completed his hat-trick in the last minute of regular time.
“We played a very good first half but lost concentration early in the second allowing Rubin to score,” Villas-Boas said.
“I didn’t expect an easy game today as Rubin are famous for their strong defence. But I was really impressed by how my team reacted on that goal.
“Zenit dominated the play again and performed a really outstanding half-hour, scoring four more goals to earn the league’s lead. We’re definitely moving in the right direction.”
Meanwhile, bottom-placed Anzhi Makhachkala recorded their season’s second win to keep their hopes of avoiding relegation alive by thrashing visitors Dynamo Moscow 4-0.
Anzhi forwards Alexander Bukharov, Fedor Smolov and Serder Serderov along with midfielder Makhach Gadghiev scored one apiece to seriously reduce Dynamo’s chances of a top three finish.